The gift that keeps on fermenting

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I am dangerous. I am that most lethal of men. I am an Irishman who learned to make his own alcohol.

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OK, so two quick things: One, that's not really as "dangerous" as it is "self-destructive." Also, I may not be so much "Irish" as I'm just a ginger, and like all gingers, I have a self-declared spiritual connection to Ireland that allows me to excuse a love for potatoes, shade, Celtic punk music and hating people who wear green on St. Patrick's Day.

I've taken up brewing as a hobby; it compliments my love of cooking and my love of drinking beer. Also, I have vague suspicions that my fiancé did it to get me out of her hair. I received my homebrew kit a few years ago for Christmas after I showed her I possessed three basic skills: enough cooking skill to be able to not burn down the house when left unsupervised by a grownup; a passable ability to follow directions without Ikea-like androgynous figures to guide me through the process; and too much time on my hands.

My brewing kit came in the perfect wrapping. Two presents, one obviously a tightly wrapped six-pack and the other a mysteriously large box containing ... well, who knows what it contained? Could it be a TV with very weird dimension? A tiny prostitute? Half of a normal sized-prostitute? ANYTHING.

I opened the six-pack, only to find all the bottles already empty. My fiancé having a strange sense of humor, I just assumed she got drunk and wrapped up the dirty dishes for me to throw away (she likes being elaborate sometimes). The second box contained ... a bucket. I looked at her and instantly realized that this was part of some elaborate janitorial fantasy she had. Hey, whatever works. Before I had the chance to tell her I was willing to get some OSHA compliant no-slip boots, she explained to me that she had purchased me a beer-making kit. It wasn't half a prostitute nice, but it was pretty nice.

While the gift was awesome, I was kind of overwhelmed by the gravitas of the gift. "Me? Brewing? Surely I will screw this up." To be fair, I also thought this when I was given sea monkeys and when I got my first date (for the record, the sea monkeys did die and the first date only died from embarrassment).

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It was in the homebrewer's bible, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, that I found comforting wisdom for the new homebrewer: "Relax. Don't Worry. Have a home-brew." Fantastic advice. One, in that you probably shouldn't worry so much. Two, what has Bobby McFerrin done lately? Three: Brewing, like drinking is best done while drinking.

Luckily, the kits are made for the beginner, and despite some notable mistakes on my part (trying to cook 5 gallons of liquid in a 2 gallon pot, for instance), the first batch turned out splendidly.

That was three years and many awesome batches of beer ago.

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